When Malcolm X reclaimed his identity by adopting “X” as his surname, it was a public statement against injustices past and present.
Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessary, a San Diego coffee concept created by the mother-daughter duo of Khea Pollard and Cynthia Ajani, similarly seeks to lead, empower and inspire while adopting coffee.
“Our goal is to use coffee as a tool to bring together people of all backgrounds to solve complex issues in our communities,” Khea Pollard told Daily Coffee News. “I was inspired by the transformative life and legacy of Malcolm X, knowing that the Black community in particular needed to self-determine and build assets to pass down for generations.”
Situated within a colorful gallery space of about 2,800 square feet, the Cafe X coffee bar relies on a 2-group espresso machine built by Casadio paired with a Eureka grinder for its espresso menu plus a Curtis batch brewer for batch brews.
“We just want reliable equipment that makes a decent cup of coffee,” said Pollard. “It doesn’t have to be intimidating or snooty and exclusive; our brand is the opposite of that.”
Online the company sells bags of its branded house blend alongside t-shirts and other merchandise. In the shop, vibrant artwork rotates through the gallery maintained by the local real estate firm CoActivate, while a permanent mural behind the bar depicts a red-cheeked cordon-bleu, a bird native to tropical Sub-Saharan Africa.
“There’s a touch of modernity and lots of symbolic, ethnic pieces surrounded by greenery,” said Pollard. “There is also a brilliant outdoor greenspace in the back that is available to visitors to sit, eat and do work. We wanted a cozy and artistic motif.”
Both Ajani and Pollard come to Cafe X with backgrounds in nonprofit leadership, and the shop’s coffee program has been aided through supply relationships with El Cajon-based Daymar Artisan Coffee Roasters and green coffee importer Crop to Cup.
Through those connections, the owners hope to expand educational and career development opportunities, including the Cafe X paid internship program for young people. The shop is also the driving force behind the Black Women’s Resilience Project, which is seeking to provide guaranteed income to low-income Black mothers in San Diego County.
“It’s not only a poverty reduction measure, but a method that does not rely on the families to sustain it like mutual aid, or prove worthiness,” said Pollard. “Café X is the community organizing force behind the concept because we convened community focus groups, including an advisory board, to discuss it, and partnered with Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) to implement it.”
Ajani and Pollard hope to expand the Cafe X concept to multiple locations in time, with the ultimate goal of generating enough revenue to at least partially sustain social projects.
Said Pollard, “The more collaboration, the more our communities thrive.”